August 29, 2011 09:52
Usain Bolt made history again on Sunday night -- but for all the wrong reasons. The world's top sprinter suffered a world-class catastrophe when he jumped the gun at Daegu Stadium and was disqualified from the men's 100 meters before getting a chance to defend his world record at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Athletics.
After putting on a typical display of showmanship in the minutes before the race, when the 25-year-old Jamaican showed off his new beard to the cameras and waved his forefingers dismissively at his competition while shaking his head, Bolt false-started to end his hopes of a record back-to-back triple gold haul at the Worlds.
After tearing off his shirt in frustration and hammering the side of the stadium with his fists, the 2008 Beijing Olympics champion and reigning world record holder walked out of the stadium in disbelief.
This left his compatriot Yohan Blake, Bolt's 21-year-old training partner, to claim the gold medal in an unexceptional time of 9.92 seconds, 0.16 seconds ahead of American rival Walter Dix. Kim Collins of Saint Kitts and Nevis, the 2003 world champion, claimed bronze.
Since the first Worlds in Helsinki in 1983 until the 12th edition of the biennial competition in 2009 in Berlin, no sprinter in the men's 100m final has been disqualified for a false start.
But all that changed on Sunday evening following a rule change by the IAAF, athletics governing body, last year to enforce a zero-tolerance policy for false starts.
When it comes to big-stage foul-ups or disgraces in athletics top event at the Worlds, the closest candidates so far have been Canadian Ben Johnson (1987 winner) and Tim Montgomery of the U.S. (who won in 2001 and 2003), who both had their records stripped when they were later found guilty of using banned drugs.
The shock of the false start left Bolt and most of the spectators speechless. Bolt, in lane five, sprang out of the starting blocks before the gun was triggered. His face told everyone that he knew of his fatal mistake after just a few steps. Stunned, he took his top off and buried his head in his hands.
Before the race, Bolt was unequivocally the favorite, despite not claiming either the fastest time of the season or notching the best time in the semifinals. But he cruised into the final with the third best time of 10.05 seconds on Sunday in a race that seemed, to him, a walk in the park as he visibly slowed in the final 20 meters after racing ahead of the pack.
Now his dream of joining the likes of "legends" like Carl Lewis and Maurice Greene, who won three consecutive world titles in the 100 m, looks in serious doubt.
His rivals were also astonished at the day's shock result. Blake said words could not describe what happened. Bolt did not give an official interview, except for telling the Associated Press before leaving the stadium: "Looking for tears? Not going to happen. I'm OK."
Before his trip-up, the gold was as good as his, as four of the world's top runners had already pulled out of the race. Jamaican Asafa Powell, who had the season's best time of 9.78 seconds, was a last-minute drop-out due to injury, while American Tyson Gay only made it to Daegu to fulfill sponsorship duties, also due to injury.
Jamaican Steve Mullings and American Mike Rodgers -- who had notched times of 9.80 seconds and 9.85 seconds this season, respectively -- were banned from this year's World Championships due to the use of unauthorized drugs. Other big names, such as Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago, Zimbabwean Ngonidzashe Makusha, American Justin Gatlin and Jamaican Michael Frater, failed to qualify to the final.
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